Public Relations Degree Guide: 2021 Costs, Requirements & Job Opportunities

Public Relations Degree Guide: 2021 Costs, Requirements & Job Opportunities
Imed Bouchrika by Imed Bouchrika
Chief Data Scientist & Head of Content

A public relations (PR) degree revolves around feasible approaches and theoretical frameworks for managing the public images of individuals, private businesses, and organizations. A career in PR is right for you if you are a highly driven individual who wishes to see novelty in your day-to-day tasks, as well as if you want to always help others in any way that you can. This specialization can land you jobs in advertising, media relations, and social media sectors. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects a continuous need for PR professionals from 2018 to 2028. The BLS sees a 6% increase rate for PR professionals over these years (BLS, 2021).

Working in PR requires attention to detail, amiability, open-mindedness, and the ability to work and succeed under pressure. To be able to transform events and information into well-structured and sometimes optimistic narratives, you must also exemplify persuasiveness and rhetorical adeptness. However, a significant effect on the PR industry is being established by a new wave of specialization headed toward digital media (Best Colleges, 2020).

Let this guide walk you through the demanding yet exciting future a PR degree has to offer.

Public Relations Degree Table of Contents

  1. What is a Public Relations Degree?
  2. Cost of Public Relations Degree
  3. Public Relations Degree Jobs
  4. Types of Degrees in Public Relations
  5. Public Relations Degree Requirements
  6. What to Look for in a Public Relations Program
  7. Majors Related to Public Relations

What is a Public Relations Degree?

The public relations definition refers to the study of learning communication forms and their application to promotional values. PR degree students are taught how to create a PR strategy, match PR goals with marketing and advertising approaches, and shape pleasing public images for individuals, private businesses, or organizations. This degree cultivates major skills, such as oral and written communication, which PR professionals will make the most of in the workforce (Best Colleges, 2020).

What can you do with a public relations degree?

A public relations degree equips you with everything you may need to know in terms of writing news releases, working with the media, setting up interviews, writing speeches, being a spokesperson, and managing the overall communications for an individual or within a business or organization. Most organizations employ PR professionals to interact with the media and maintain their good relationship with the public.

Oksana N. Berduygina from Tyumen Industrial University, Russian Federation, along with co-authors, wrote in the peer-reviewed Media Watch journal (2019) that: “Many people, especially the younger generation, pay attention to the fact that newspapers, radio, and television broadcast only lop-sided information and apply psychological manipulation techniques. This led to a drop in confidence in these information sources by more than 5% over the past five years.” Thus, PR professionals today need to be savvy in social media communication, too, to send their messages across effectively.

PR degree holders commonly start out as PR specialists for the academic sector, private businesses, government agencies, hospitals, or other organizations. If you gain more relevant experience and advance your learning, you can climb up the corporate ladder by taking managerial roles (Best Marketing Degrees, n.d.).

public relations professionals feel like their job improves people's lives

Cost of Public Relations Degree

Public relations degree tuition ranges from approximately $10,000 to over $40,000 annually. The type of school, whether public or private, can impact tuition costs. Public schools receive government aid and commonly charge more affordable tuition costs than private ones. Most public schools also offer huge discounts for in-state tuition. Some schools impose a per-credit tuition cost, while others impose a per-semester tuition cost.

When preparing to attend college, consider transportation, meals, and other expenses. If you plan to relocate, consider rental or campus housing fees. Textbooks, technology fees, and other expenses also affect the entire public relations degree tuition (Best Colleges, n.d.).

How much does it cost to get a public relations degree?

The average public relations degree tuition of higher institutes offering a public relations degree is $23,791 for undergraduate programs and $19,301 for graduate programs. These costs are for the school year 2020-2021 (College Tuition Compare, n.d.).

Most In Demand Careers for Economics Degree Graduates

Occupation NameProjected JobsExpected Growth
Managers1,071,7008.0%
Market Research Analysts and Marketing Specialists733,70023.2%
Economists22,6006.1%
Economics Professors18,30010.9%
Survey Researchers14,9002.1%
Source: College Factual, 2021

Is a degree in public relations worth it?

People expect that public relations entails a fast-paced environment, access to special occasions, freebies and unique perks, and regular celebrity interaction. All of these have been actually happening in the PR world, but behind all the fun are countless hours spent on planning, writing, and strategizing.

While English, journalism, and communication degrees typically lead to PR jobs, obtaining a degree in public relations is worth it if you know right from the start that you want to be a PR professional. It is always better to enroll in a more specialized public relations program than just merely try your luck (Franklin University, n.d.).

public professionals who are satisifed with their jobs

Public Relations Degree Jobs

As information technology continues to improve, industry leaders realize the necessity of PR to maintain their good image. PR is an ever-growing field, offering a huge selection of opportunities. Know the common public relations degree jobs here.

Is public relations in high demand?

The best thing about holding a public relations degree is that you can fit anywhere. The high demand for PR degree jobs has enabled PR graduates adequate opportunities in the field. Regardless of the industry, every company needs a PR team to work on crucial issues it is facing.

Moreover, the growing social media venue requires more PR professionals to foster company values using the most up-to-date innovations. For the past five years, PR firms have shifted their gears toward the utilization of several social media platforms. (IBISWorld, 2021).

Yet, in Carolyn Mae Kim’s interview with Karen Freberg in her 2020 book “Social Media Campaigns: Strategies for Public Relations and Marketing,” Freberg reminded that:

Social media has allowed the individual user to bypass gatekeepers to form their own media channel. She said that we are able to share content and connect with people in real time and break down the traditional barriers of communication that have been around for decades. “While there are lots of great opportunities that make social media powerful, we also have to consider the challenges it has raised and how it is a powerful, and sometimes dangerous, platform and community. It’s about understanding the balance of what makes social media powerful—the positives and the negatives,” the author mentioned. Kim is an award-winning scholar, educator, and PR professional. She is a Biola University associate professor and has developed PR and marketing campaigns for national nonprofits and worldwide charities.

What jobs can you get with public relations degree?

  1. Social Media Manager. Social media managers oversee the social media presence of their clients. They use tools to assess how a brand image is being perceived by the public and how they can further improve it. They may also work on the social media following of their clients, announce events, and target the perfect social media personalities to partner with for a marketing campaign.
  2. Publicists. Publicists work either directly for a company or in-house team and support clients by developing and executing brand strategies. They create publicity campaigns to endorse public figures or brands. Through publicists, clients can connect to the media and customers to form business relationships.
  3. Copywriter. Copywriters create content that builds positive narratives about their clients. These narratives are then pitched to journalists to mobilize press coverage. They write press releases and articles, formulate press materials, and assist in making videos to promote a brand.
  4. Community Relations Director. Community relations directors deal with their clients’ social responsibility. They recommend events, sponsors, and agencies where clients can offer philanthropic deeds.
  5. Media Relations Manager. Media relations managers engage with the media to pitch narrative ideas and schedule interviews. They monitor metrics concerning news, social media, and blog placements to determine the effectiveness of a PR campaign.

What kind of salary can I earn with a public relations degree?

With a public relations degree, expect to excel in many worthwhile careers and generate a high salary. Salary depends on some factors though, like the college degree, career path, years of experience in the industry, and the industry you belong to. The average yearly salary of a PR professional ranges from as low as $42,000 to as high as $159,000. This notable gap suggests that there are advancement and increased salary opportunities based on skillset and experience (ZipRecruiter, 2021).

For the average annual salary of top public relations degree jobs, a social media manager earns  $51,807, a publicist earns $43,525, a copywriter earns $56,644, a community relations director earns $62,560, and a media relations manager earns $72,788 (Indeed, 2021).

Source: Indeed, 2021

Types of Degrees in Public Relations

Many PR companies prefer to employ job applicants with specialized degrees. PR and marketing, communications, and business administration fields overlap, but earning a PR degree benefits PR professionals more (Discover Business, n.d.). Learn more about the different public relations degree types and how they can help you achieve your future career plans.

What kinds of public relations degrees are there?

  1. Associate Degree in Public Relations

    Average time to complete: Two years

    An associate degree in public relations offers introductory-level courses in oral and written communication, marketing, and digital media. It provides general knowledge of mass communications, writing, and marketing. PR students will be taught about analyzing advertisements, broadcasts, and other mass media types.

    This degree can pave the way for entry-level occupations in the advertising and marketing industries. If you are interested in strategic or legal communication, you can work as a paralegal. Otherwise, an interest in marketing or advertising can qualify you to become a sales agent (BLS, n.d.).

    An associate degree in public relations serves as a preparation to earn a bachelor’s degree in public relations.

    Entry-level jobs: administrative assistant, paralegal, advertising sales agent

  2. Bachelor Degree in Public Relations

    Average time to complete: Four years

    A bachelor’s degree in public relations centers on multimedia writing and PR writing coursework. It also provides knowledge of PR campaigns, audience analysis, and international PR campaigns. Here, students will know how to present and debate better.

    Electives may cover fundraising, advertising, and magazine writing topics. This degree is the gateway to entry-level jobs, including market researcher, copywriter, and PR specialist. It also develops skills in event planning (Discover Business, n.d.).

    Public relation courses in a bachelor’s degree are focused on building foundational skills in strategic communications, media relations, and PR. A bachelor’s degree in public relations leads to roles in marketing, advertising, and PR. It is the leading choice for students who want to fully enter the PR field.

    Entry-level jobs: PR specialist, market research analyst, PR coordinator, event planner, writer

  3. Master’s Degree in Public Relations

    Average time to complete: Eight months to two years

    A master’s degree in public relations helps students specialize in a certain field. Most master’s level PR degrees center on communications management. This type of degree does not have a definite time of completion as it usually depends on the chosen degree and academic credits.

    A master’s degree in public relations studies international PR, crisis management, media relations management, and audience research. It aids in exploring advanced methods needed in modern communications. This helps students learn how to become brand managers.

    This degree can lead to holding higher positions in the fields of PR, advertising, and marketing (BLS, n.d.).

    High-level positions: PR manager, advertising manager, marketing manager, director or vice president

  4. Doctorate Degree in Public Relations

    Average time to complete: Three to six years

    A doctorate degree in public relations is a preparation for the highest positions in the PR field. In this degree, students finish coursework that provides advanced knowledge of PR and specialized training.

    Courses in a doctorate degree in public relations focus on theory and research methodologies. These courses may be in PR research techniques, statistical research mediums, communication theory, and business science (Discover Business, n.d.).

    Many programs allot one to two years for dissertation research and writing. Most academic roles, specifically on the tenure path, require a doctorate degree. Meanwhile, school administrative positions typically hire applicants with doctorates.

    High-level positions: professor, nonprofit executive director, dean

  5. Certificate in Public Relations

    Anyone who plans to pursue a career in PR may opt to take an introductory-level course first to get a full grasp of its dynamics. A certificate in public relations is a recommended option for marketing professionals and journalists. This certification can be a good start before enrolling in a full-time PR degree (Discover Business, n.d.).

Source: College Factual

Public Relations Degree Requirements

College application is a daunting task but with enough preparation, you will figure out that meeting certain requirements and admissions processes is quite easy after all. Before applying, understand what your prospective school expects from you.

Most schools require applicants to submit public relations degree prerequisites, such as an application form, essay, high school transcripts, and standardized test scores. Applicants may also be asked to submit recommendation letters or attend an interview (Best Colleges, n.d.). Listed below are the vital public relations degree prerequisites.

Admission Requirements

  1. GPA. Many schools require a GPA of at least 2.5 to 3.5. Meanwhile, most institutes accept students with lower GPAs but are skilled in other fields.
  2. Transcript. A transcript is one of the many requirements that colleges or universities ask from applicants. Obtaining your official high school transcript from your school usually comes at a small fee.
  3. Recommendation Letters. The number of recommendation letters varies by school. Most schools require three recommendation letters from students.
  4. Test Scores. Some schools require the submission of SAT or ACT scores, while others require SAT II subject test scores. Check with your target school what minimum scores it accepts.
  5. Application Fee. Institutes normally have an application fee between $25 and $90. Applicants can waive an application fee through schools or The Common App. Many schools do not impose a fee.

Skill Requirements

  1. Interpersonal Skill. PR deals with establishing a good image for clients, hence the need for regular public and media interaction. To thrive in PR, professionals must have strong interpersonal skills. This public relations degree skill can be developed through group activities, presentations, and on-the-job training.
  2. Organizational Skills. PR professionals usually handle numerous client accounts. set various events, and manage a PR specialists team. These tasks require excellent organizational skills, which can be developed through the completion of individual and group assignments.
  3. Public Speaking. Public speaking skills can be developed and improved through in-class presentations. These public relations degree skills are advantageous for PR professionals who are always designated with speaking on behalf of their clients.
  4. Writing. PR students develop skills in writing by consistently making papers and projects. Impeccable writing skills help PR professionals convey ideas in the form of press releases, speeches, and marketing copies.
  5. Communication. Communication serves as the foundation of PR. PR professionals must always be able to briefly yet comprehensively send a message across industries. PR students develop these skills through papers, presentations, and training.

What to Look for in a Public Relations Program

Before choosing a public relations program, consider factors that will significantly affect your overall education. As a learner, choose a school that will best suit your career and lifestyle needs (Best Colleges, n.d.).

Available Specializations

First, determine which specialization caters to your academic endeavors. A school’s curriculum must include courses related to your career goals. If you aim to gain substantial experience in the field, find public relations degree programs that provide hands-on opportunities.

Accreditation

Look for a PR program that is recognized by an esteemed accrediting firm. Accreditation indicates that a program or school fulfills prescribed quality standards. Accreditation mandates a regular and in-depth review process. PR students in accredited academic institutes can be eligible for federal financial sponsorship. Furthermore, attending an accredited school guarantees that other schools and employers will acknowledge your PR program.

The Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications approves public relations degree programs. Also, make sure that a school is accredited by a body acknowledged by the US Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (Best Colleges, 2020).

Professional Connections and Opportunities

Many PR programs offer on-the-job training, study-abroad programs, and career development resources. These opportunities will allow you to apply your acquired PR skills in real life, meet industry experts, and get accepted into your dream job.

Majors Related to Public Relations

Why a Degree in Public Relations May Be the Right Choice for You

For many PR professionals, no two days have been the same ever since they started working in the field. What makes their jobs even more rewarding is that they actually see how their hard work is paying off. Think of major articles being published across different platforms, being read by thousands of people, and being shared to a thousand more—a PR professional did that.

Public relations is interestingly a contrast between facts and the art of narration. Its future will become more appealing as it will embrace technology in many unthinkable ways. If the thought of being a part of it fascinates you, then a degree in public relations would be the right choice for you (Guillory, 2018).

 

References:

  1. Berduygina O., Vladimirova, T., & Chernyaeva, E. (2019). Trends in the Spread of Fake News in Mass Media. DOI: 10.15655/mw/2019/v10i1/49561. Retrieved from Media Watch.
  2. Best Colleges. (2020, September 8). Public Relations Careers.
  3. Best Colleges. (n.d.). Bachelor’s in Public Relations Program Guide.
  4. Best Marketing Degrees.Org. (n.d.). What Can I Do with a Public Relations Degree? Retrieved June 1, 2021, from
  5. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021, April 9). Public Relations Specialists.
  6. College Tuition Compare. (n.d.). Public Relations, Advertising, And Applied Communication Schools.
  7. Discover Business. (n.d.). Public Relations Degree and Career Guide.
  8. Franklin University. (n.d.). Is a Public Relations Degree Right for Me?
  9. Guillory, S. (2018, October 10). Is Public Relations a Good Major in College? Cision.
  10. Indeed.  (2021, February 27). Public Relations: Everything You Need To Know About Working in PR.
  11. International Student.com. (n.d.). Study Public Relations in the US.
  12. Kim, C. (2020). Social Media Campaigns: Strategies for Public Relations and Marketing. Retrieved from Google Books.
  13. ZipRecruiter. (n.d.). Public Relations Salary.

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